Psychosocial Development and Technology Use (Part 6)
In the previous blogs we introduced Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and how technology use might interfere with the first five stages.
Psychosocial theory suggests that as we mature from infancy to adulthood we transition through stages of social development that provide us with conflict or challenges. When we successfully manage a challenge or conflict, we obtain a psychological skill or value that helps us to tackle the next psychosocial challenge. These skills are cumulative, and if we fail to develop a skill we will experience difficulties in a particular area.
In this blog we will examine stage 6 (early adulthood), and the potential consequences of technology use during this stage of development.
|1||Birth to 24 months||Trust vs. Mistrust||Hope|
|2||2 – 3 years||Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt||Will|
|3||3 – 5 years||Initiative vs. Guilt||Purpose|
|4||5 – 11 years||Industry vs. Inferiority||Competence|
|5||Adolescence||Identity vs. Confusion||Fidelity|
|6||Early Adulthood||Intimacy vs. Isolation||Love|
|7||Middle Age||Generativity vs. Stagnation||Care|
|8||Old Age||Integrity vs. Despair||Wisdom|
Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation (19-40 years)
Erikson theorized that it is a fundamental necessity for young adults to form intimate, loving relationships with other people to proceed through this stage. However, an individual’s ability to have intimate relationships is based on the successful transition through the previous psychosocial stages. These earlier successes are critical to the development of the person’s resilient sense of individual identity. Only after a person develops a strong sense of personal identity are they equipped to develop an intimate relationship.
During this stage, the successful young adult, for the first time, can experience true intimacy and commitment or a genuine and enduring friendship with people outside of the family. Successful transition through this stage will lead to lasting relationships that are characterized by commitment, well being, and care within the relationship and the development of the virtue of love. The formation of the virtue of love permits an individual to develop enduring and meaningful relationships with other people.
If an individual has not successfully passed through the previous psychosocial stages to develop their sense of identity then they may fear commitment and relationships, and actively avoid intimacy. The avoidance and fear then leads to the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and possibly depression.
Technology use can affect this psychosocial stage because it serves as a distraction and a reprieve from the work and energy it takes to develop healthy, intimate and committed personal relationships. Online dating websites, sexual chat rooms, and social media can replace real-life relationships due to their ease to maintain and facilitation of a fantasy life. When life is saddled with 24-hour connectivity to work and the increase of available online relationships, individuals who do not successfully navigate this stage may lose their focus on their real-life relationships. Exclusive emphasis on work, educational, or online relationships is always at the expense of committed real life relationships and eventually leads to dissatisfying and unhealthy relationships.
Technology use not only interferes with the development of healthy relationships, it also inhibits the ability to parent children transitioning into young adulthood. If we are persistently distracted from parenting and modeling behaviors that will help our children successfully pass through Erikson’s psychosocial stages, our children will have difficulty forming their own sense of personal identity. Parents need to take into account their own technology use and practices and what it says about priorities and respect for relationships with others.
Tips for Stage 6 Individuals (19 – 40 years):
- When young adult children (think children in their 20’s) are at home establish tech-free time together(a designated night, dinner time, or Sunday afternoon)
- Encourage your young adult to find an organization or social activity to join.
- Check in with your young adult children about their technology use.
- For young adults that are married or have children, plan at least one technology free activity each week with your spouse or partner and PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR. (This goes back to modeling healthy behaviors and relationships)
Summary of Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages
Psychosocial development and the concept of having success or failure at each stage have long been used to understand how children develop and transition through life. The primary goal is to raise a successful, happy and mature adult who will reach the peak of adjustment. Failure at any of the earlier stages can lead to despair and unresolved feelings that may exhibit themselves as anxiety or self-doubt. As parents, it is our job to help our children through these stages by encouraging positive learning challenges and balance in all areas of life.
Part of being a parent now requires that we appropriately monitor, technology use and discuss it with our children during each of phase of development so that they understand its benefits and risks. Hopefully, gaining a better understanding of the psychology behind these developmental stages will give parents the knowledge and tools needed to successfully assist children through each stage without permitting technology to interfere with their process.